Tag Archives: famine

Finding Hidden Obstacles to Weight Loss (weight loss series part 7)

Part 1 –    Part 2 -    Part 3  Part 4    Part 5  Part 6

In Part 1 we started with a look at homeostasis, or the state of being in balance, as it relates to our bodies and our metabolism. We took a tour in Part 2 through the pages of dieting history with some surprising discoveries that eating fat doesn’t make you fat. With that in mind we took a look at how America typically eats and discovered a powerful hormone called leptin. Next we looked at ways to overcome leptin resistance in order to speed up metabolism. This article takes a look at several other hidden obstacles to weight loss that may surprise you.

scale slidingIn June 2013 the American Medical Association announced that it was now classifying obesity as a disease. If you have been keeping up with our series on weight loss you may disagree with the AMA. Obesity is instead a symptom of any number of other issues. If you pinpoint the issue you can correct it as well as experience weight loss as a side effect of regaining health.

The majority of people struggling with weight issues are also struggling with other issues. They may be fighting depression, diabetes, adrenal exhaustion, thyroid malfunction, food allergies, digestive disorders, sinus infections, candida, or any number of other concerns. While these issues may appear unrelated to obesity on the surface, they are in fact integrally tied to each other.

Julia Ross, author of The Diet Cure, gives eight different health issues that could be holding you back from losing excess weight. I highly recommend getting her book and reading in great detail about the health issues I share briefly here on this blog.

1. You have depleted brain chemistry. There are key chemicals, called neurotransmitters, within your brain that allow your brain to work efficiently and keep your body’s engine running smoothly. You may be very low or even missing many of these maybe due to prolonged unresolved stress, eating refined and processed foods too often, or not getting sufficient quality protein.

2. You suffer from malnutrition due to years of low-calorie dieting and fasting diets. I love how Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness puts it in his You Tube video Leptin: Fat Loss for Smart People. (catch the quote around the 8 minute mark about the cave man going jogging!) He explains that low-calorie dieting is nothing more than voluntarily putting ourselves into a famine! You need to understand that our physical bodies see no difference between voluntarily eating MediFast meals and involuntarily being in a concentration camp starvation situation! Prisoners in Nazi Germany at Treblinka concentration camp were (barely) kept alive on 900 calories per day. Today doctors are prescribing liquid-fast diets at 700-800 calories per day – less than a concentration camp meal plan!! The World Health Organization studied worldwide emergency food shortage situations and established that starvation begins at anything fewer than 2,100 calories per day, so their emergency food aid packets BEGIN at 2,300 calories for women and 2,500 calories per day for men. It is vital to note the belief that “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is a big mistake. Richard Feinman and Eugene Fine put it this way “A calorie is a calorie violates the second law of thermodynamics.”  Sometimes it takes a physicist to make us understand the lunacy. Junk food calories are always bad. We need nutrient-rich calories, NOT dead food.

3. You have unstable blood sugar. Highly processed carbohydrates like crackers, chips, cookies, juice drinks, soft drinks, sports drinks and boxed cereals are lacking in usable nutrients. Constantly eating these fake foods puts you in a carbs>body fat>insulin cycle that can lead to diabetes. Or you may burn out your adrenals as they rush to rescue you from blood sugar swings. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and adrenal exhaustion have similar symptoms. Both are dangerous.

4. You have unrecognized low thyroid function. People with thyroid problems can literally find it impossible to lose weight even on liquid fasts and starvation diets. Seemingly unrelated things can cause malfunctioning in your thyroid such as anorexia, vegetarian diets, unidentified gluten intolerance, birth control pills, antibiotics, menopause or amalgam fillings.

5. You have food addictions and allergies. Sugar is highly addictive – possibly more addictive than crack cocaine! Flour and wheat products as well as milk and dairy products are also highly allergenic nowadays due to the destruction of their proteins through careless processing and careless industrial farming practices. What were once nourishing foods (why else did God call the Promised Land a land of milk and honey? Why else use the imagery of Bread of Life for Jesus?) are now foods capable of stimulating heroin-like reactions in the brain. Casein and gluten function like opiates in the brains of those with food allergies causing drug-like levels of addiction to these foods. Other symptoms of food allergies may again seem unrelated such as joint pain, headaches, earache, postnasal drip, gas, constipation, and ADHD. Food allergies can directly impair your weight loss efforts.

6. You have hormonal issues and imbalances. Cravings and weight gain and health issues can all be stimulated by hormonal events such as PMS, menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, perimenopause and menopause. Any juncture in a woman’s life where we are susceptible to imbalance in hormones could upset our homeostasis. Men get it too from poor diet and high stress. American women experience more troubles with these stages of life than women in third world countries whose diets are more primitive. Immigrants from these countries soon begin to experience our problems when they adopt our diet. It is important to know that cholesterol-rich foods nourish our adrenals which are responsible for producing 50% of our sex hormones and nearly all of our stress hormones. Eating low-cholesterol diets and taking statins can tax already inadequate adrenal glands.

7. You have yeast overgrowth. There is a direct connection between the gut and the brain. Yeast overgrowth in the gut can hijack the body/brain connection. Yeast needs sugar to grow so yeast causes sugar and carb cravings. Side effects from yeast overgrowth include depression, bloating, PMS, painful joints, eczema, sore throat, impaired digestion, urinary problems, chest pain, shortness of breath, sinus infection and ear infections! Antibiotics, birth control pills, stress, recreational drugs, surgery and a lack of fermented foods can all contribute to yeast overgrowth.

8. You have fatty acid deficiency. We need the right kinds of fats for hormone production, cell protection, healthy skin and hair, mental stability, concentration, regularity and prevention of abnormal cravings. Safe, nourishing fats are those highly valued and eaten regularly by the traditional people Weston Price studied who possessed the true definitions of health. Those fats are butter, coconut oil, animal fats from free range and wild caught animals and fish, extra virgin olive oil, nut/seed/avocado oil from cold-pressed sources. Healthy fats contain so many of the nutrients we need like vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, CLA, MCT, cholesterol, and omega-3s.

Addressing these 8 hidden causes of metabolic imbalance will put you on the path to good health, and it will also bring about the desired balance within you body that allows your metabolism to burn efficiently leading to a healthy body weight.

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Leptin – what is it and how does it work? (weight loss series part 4)

This is part four of a continuing series looking at weight loss. To read Part 1 –    Part 2 -    Part 3

We used to think our fat cells were just a place to store extra calories. I would guess that the majority of people still think that fat, also called adipose tissue, is just a big blob of worthless stuff causing us a lot of grief.  In 1994 scientists discovered that in fact our fat cells are very busy, working all the time, AND they even produce a special hormone.  This hormone, called leptin, is one of the most powerful hormones we make!

One of the best layman’s explanations of leptin comes from Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness.  His video, “Fat Loss for Smart People” is worth a look.

Leptin is like the CEO of hormones. Produced in our adipose tissue (fat), it has a direct influence on metabolism.  It is essential for survival.

Leptin works together with two other important hormones, insulin and adrenaline.  Leptin, insulin and adrenaline report to and are directed by the hypothalamus, an area in our brain.  So we have our hypothalamus (in the brain) listening to messages from our leptin (in our fat), insulin (made in the pancreas) and adrenaline (made in the adrenal glands); and making critical decisions on our health status based on these messages.  The hypothalamus revs our metabolism up, or slows it down depending on the messages it is receiving.  A body in balance has good communication between all of these areas. This is one of the key ways we maintain a healthy weight – good communication!

steam engine and diesel AmtrakThe hypothalamus region of our brain is mostly interested in staying alive, really that’s all it cares about, staying alive at all costs. Like the engineer of a big train it says, “How much energy is being used? How long will this last? Do we have enough in reserve to keep this up? I need answers people!!”


Leptin sends out messages at regular intervals keeping the hypothalamus informed. “Everything’s good here. We have plenty of food coming in, we’re setting aside exactly what we need. No worries here, things are fine.”  Leptin also sends messages to the pancreas and the adrenals letting them know what is needed.

The boss Hypothalamus stays calm when these messages come in on schedule. “Roger that! Metabolism will remain at optimum energy production. Appetite, you don’t need to be high. Pancreas, thyroid and adrenals you’re doing fine, keep up the good work. Good teamwork everyone!”

If we are ever in a famine we are forced to burn our fat stores because food is scarce.  The fat stores get smaller and smaller and nothing is coming in to replace them. Leptin sends an emergency message, “Hey, stores are running out. We will soon be burning muscle tissue, there’s not enough food!”

The hypothalamus jumps to action. “Thyroid, slow things down! We’re burning up energy too fast! Appetite, I order you to find us more fuel STAT!”  This way we are able to conserve energy through slower metabolism while becoming hungrier and hungrier and thus even more motivated to find food. This is what happens when our bodies encounter starvation or famine.

The trouble is our hypothalamus never looks in the mirror. Our hypothalamus does not care one bit what we look like. It only cares whether or not we are going to die from lack of food. Someone in a war-torn third world country who is truly suffering from a dangerous famine will have this scenario going on in his body.  Someone else (like us) in a wealthy western country with plenty of grocery and convenience stores as well as extra pounds on our hips, may decide to go on Medifast 800 calorie/day diet and our bodies will have the exact same reaction as the person in the famine-plagued country. The moment we are no longer in starvation mode our body works as quickly as possible to return to the pre-famine state.  If that pre-famine state was a healthy one that’s not a bad thing. But if that pre-famine state was already overweight this means we gain back all of the weight that was lost by starving ourselves on purpose. (self-induced famine)  The more often we put ourselves through starvation mode the less our body will trust us for survival. Instead of gaining back only to the original amount we will now gain a little extra “just in case you do something stupid and try to starve us again!” says the hypothalamus.

So how does leptin, insulin, adrenaline and the hypothalamus let us get overweight in the first place?

It all goes back to that balance we talked about in the very first article of this series. Something in out-of-balanceour lifestyle pushes us out of balance. When that happens the leptin tries to send messages to the hypothalamus but the lines of communication are down and the message doesn’t go through. This is called leptin resistance. The hypothalamus sends out the alarm, “Oh no! Starvation mode!” Metabolism slows down to conserve energy, appetite increases and fat stores get larger and larger. This gives us even more leptin-producing tissue which puts it out of balance with insulin. We have set the stage for serious health issues. These issues include erratic behavior and strong cravings, mental problems, bone loss, heart disease and cancer. We have also lost the ability to maintain a healthy body weight.  This is all because leptin regulates the other hormones including thyroid, adrenal, pancreatic and the sex hormones.

The brain is not the only site that receives messages from leptin. There can be a breakdown in communication between leptin and all the other body receptor sites. We can burn out our livers, pancreas, adrenals and thyroid when our body tries to fight off what is perceived as starvation or famine.  The older we get the more likely this is to happen. It happens even faster when we are overstressed.

How do we know if we are leptin resistant? According to the book Mastering Leptin by Byron and Mary Richards   there are several signs that indicate leptin resistance:

15 or more pounds overweight, low energy, poor immune response, fatigue, not refreshed by exercise, anorexia, significantly overweight in spite of near-starvation levels of calories.

So how did we get out of balance in the first place?     ……..to be continued!…………Part Five here.

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